Working the Steps

Characters: Margaret Morgan, Dunstan Kordieh

Dunstan Kordieh waited for some time after his shift ended for G’fen to return. When he didn’t, Kordieh assumed some security duty had prevented his friend from coming back, and went on to have dinner and retire to his quarters.

He spent about two hours trying to piece together what he could remember about the Phoenix’s construction. Someday, he wanted to find a way to communicate with those parts of the ship that seemed to have sentience. He couldn’t look up any technical information about the ship — that was strictly forbidden — and so he was forced to try and comb through the matted thickets of his own memory.

Looking over the pages of notes he’d just created, he sighed. It was so little, and so fuzzy — it wouldn’t be of much use. Especially since he couldn’t access any of the Phoenix’s systems to experiment.

With another sigh, he stored the notes and shut down his terminal. It would have to wait. For exactly what, and for how long, he couldn’t even begin to guess.

Kordieh woke early the next morning, the vivid images of a dream still fresh in his mind. What it had been trying to tell him seemed very clear, for once. He looked at the chrono. There might even be enough time to begin.

He dressed in his working uniform, but instead of going to Medlab, he walked down to the large room near the docking bays.

To his surprise, he found Morgan there, a stack of paper in her hand and a frown of concentration on her face. She didn’t even notice she wasn’t alone. Painstakingly, she was laying sheets out in a precise pattern.

He watched her for a moment, beginning to guess what she was up to, startled by an intent which seemed so similar to his own. Finally, he cleared his throat. “Anla’shok Morgan?” he asked quietly.

She startled, looked up. “Anla’shok Kordieh.” She managed a faint smile for him. “How may I assist?”

“Actually, I’m beginning to think maybe we can help each other.” He pointed to the sheets already on the floor. “Would I be right in guessing you’re laying out a labryinth pattern?”

She looked at the paper, almost guiltily. “I am. I…” Then she stopped, shrugging. It was hard to put her reasons into words.

“Back on Minbar,” he said slowly, “I walked the mah’uzeed every day. It was part of the rules for me. I haven’t been able to do that here on the Phoenix, and I’ve realized … just how much I missed it.”

Morgan didn’t answer immediately. When she did, it was in a soft voice most would never associate with her. “This is only two-dimensional, I’m afraid. A poor replica of the one at Chartres.”

“Better than what I was going to attempt, I think. I thought to come down here, and just try to walk the path of the mah’uzeed in my mind.” He looked at the pattern forming on the floor. “I’ve never seen the original. It seems such a long time since I was home in France.”

“I’ve only seen stills of it – when I was on Earth, I never had a chance to go there. I did walk simpler ones, in various places.”

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to try and walk it also, when you have it laid out.”

“Why would I mind? In fact…” She paused, and divided the stack of paper, handed him half. “I’ve numbered each sheet – you can start from the back.”

Within a few minutes, the work was complete, and the labyrinth pattern lay on the floor of the room. Morgan looked it over, slightly embarrassed at the seeming waste of a resource, and that it was so transient. “It won’t last long,” she murmured.

“What ever does?” Kordieh asked, a faintly sorrowful tone in his voice.

She was silent a few moments, as if she wasn’t going to answer. Finally: “Friendship does.” She wouldn’t look at him: rarely was she so honest with even herself, much less anyone else.

Tres aimable,” he murmured. He walked to the doorway and leaned against it, then said, “I think you should go first. Should I wait until you have finished completely?”

Morgan shrugged a little. “That’s between you and yourself and … whatever else.” She hesitated, then slipped her boots off – they would tear the paper otherwise. Murmuring to herself, she took the first step.

Kordieh watched her, waiting until she had completed the walk to slip off his own shoes and walk to the beginning. “I’ll try not to dance,” he said with a barely audible chuckle.

Morgan watched him. A scrap of memory rose, and she murmured it, intending it for herself. “`Dance in the middle of the fighting…’ ”

Deep in concentration, Kordieh didn’t seem to hear her. He walked slowly, bringing each foot level with the one ahead as he moved, as if carefully climbing stairs. When he finished the path, he bowed very deeply in Minbari fashion, first toward the pattern, and then to her.

“Thank you,” he said.

She shook her head. “Don’t. It was purely selfish reasons I made it.” She looked down, uncomfortable.

“Still, I’m grateful,” he said. Glancing at his wrist chrono, he startled. “I’m late for my shift in Medlab,” he said. “I have to go … but, do you think we could do this again?”

“Of course,” she said immediately. “Whenever you like.” Then she added, “If there is a problem with you being late, have them talk to me about it. I wouldn’t have you in trouble for this.”

“It should be all right,” he said, tugging on his shoes. “I’ll let you know if there is a problem though.” He straightened and offered another, brief bow. “Merci, mon ami. See you soon.”

Bore da,” she murmured after him. After a few moments, she stirred, knowing she had to get up to the bridge.

Copyright (c) 2003 Jamie Lawson and Leslie McBride. All rights reserved.

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